22 February 2018
The UK government will not appeal yesterday’s High Court ruling in which a judge declared plans to tackle illegal air pollution in England “flawed” and “unlawful.”
During an emergency question about the judgment in the House of Commons today, the environment minister Therese Coffey confirmed there would be no appeal.
In an embarrassing third defeat in successive cases brought by environmental lawyers, ClientEarth, the judge Mr Justice Garnham declared “unlawful” the government’s failure to require action from dozens of local authorities with illegal levels of air pollution in England.
The judge ordered ministers to require local authorities to investigate and identify measures to tackle illegal levels of pollution in 33 towns and cities as soon as possible.
The minister has wrongly claimed that the judge dismissed two out of three complaints regarding England. In fact, there were two grounds regarding England. On one, the judge ruled in ClientEarth’s favour while on the second, he found that actions taken by ministers after ClientEarth lodged its case, together with a commitment to take further action in due course, was sufficient to satisfy him that plans will be made to tackle illegal pollution in those 5 cities.
Labour MP Holly Lynch told the Commons that: “The reality is that yesterday the government’s plans were ruled unlawful for the third time in three years.”
ClientEarth lawyer Anna Heslop said: “The judge ruled that the government’s plans were seriously lacking and has ordered urgent and additional measures. In addition to the government substantially losing this case, the court has made an exceptional ruling which will allow us to return immediately to court if the government’s next plan is not good enough, to protect people’s health.”
The Welsh government conceded the case against it and will have to produce a draft plan, to bring pollution within legal limits, by 30 April 2018 and a final plan by 31 July 2018. The UK government must finalise new plans for England by 5 October 2018.
Additional measures will be required by these 33 local authorities: